I Watched: Japan Sinks 2020

Based on the 1973 disaster novel, Nihon Chinbotsu by Sakyo Komatsu, Japan Sinks 2020 is a 10-episode anime series available on Netflix in which a series of major earthquakes hit Japan. We follow the Mutou family (who were separated when the first quake hit) as they reconnect amidst the chaos and try to escape the city before additional quakes and the possible eruption of Mount Fuji threaten to sink Japan.

And that’s all I’m going to give you because I truly do not want to spoil a moment of this for you.

So, would I recommend this series? Without a doubt but it comes with the caveat to keep in mind this is based on a disaster novel, so if you’re out for a lighthearted coming of age Ghibli romp full of magic and wonder, this might not be the anime you’re looking for. The Mutou family and the people they pick up along the way are plunged into extreme life and death situations and from early on you realize that No. One. Is. Safe. which I appreciate, though you might feel differently about it. Different bikes for different likes.

I’ve heard people complain about Naoya Wada’s character designs, Science Saru’s animation style and the fact that the characters in the series live under a constant cloud of hopelessness as the pendulum swings both ways as they experience lucky breaks and violently devastating events in near equal measure, but I was far too interested in the story to nitpick any of these details. When it comes to the show’s atmosphere, I suppose it all boils down to your personal outlook. Is the glass half full or half empty? Do you only see the unapologetically brutal chaos brought on by a natural disaster and how it brings out the worst in some people or can you admire the strength to keep moving forward, the determination to survive in the face of unending adversity which is a cornerstone of the human spirit? Again, each person to their tastes.

For my money, this is a wonderful, intense and compassionate anime series that starts off strong and remains consistent throughout. I started out only planning to watch one episode to get a feel for whether it was in my wheelhouse or not and ended up binging the entire thing in one sitting because each segment closed with a cliffhanger that immediately drew me to the following episode. This deserves more attention and respect than it’s getting. I hope that changes soon.

Ciao til next now.

I Watched: “Beastars”

Beastars is an anime series (available on Netflix) based on the manga by Paru Itagaki which is set against the backdrop of a high school where anthropomorphic carnivore and herbivore students coexist in harmony and mainly focuses on a drama club where members compete to attain the rank of Beastar, an individual of great talent, service, and notoriety.

The series opens with a bloody alpaca, Tem, fleeing for his life from a classmate whose identity is hidden from us by shadows yet is known to Tem. The alpaca tries to reason with his assailant to no avail, and his murder causes a cultural divide between the carnivores and herbivores, as it becomes clear that the campus is no longer a safe place for any creature considered prey who is foolish enough to be traveling outside alone once the sun sets.

We follow the struggles of three main characters whose lives intersect and form an unusual love triangle:

  • Legoshi, an introverted large gray wolf with the gentle, contemplative heart of a monk, struggling to suppress not only his carnivore nature but his sexual desire for someone who by all rights should be prey.
  • Haru, an isolated, cheerful, adventurous, and sexually promiscuous dwarf white rabbit who is never afraid to stand up for herself amidst constant shaming and bullying from her classmates.
  • Louis, an intimidating red deer lead actor who lords himself over the drama club, who I absolutely hate, though I respect his plight. He has the heart and soul of a predator, trapped in the body of prey. Though his will is strong enough to dominate all who step into his sphere of influence, his herbivore body can’t go toe to toe with a carnivore. But like I said, I can’t stand him. He has that type of anime face just begging to be punched.

Since there is currently more content available than any sane person can keep track of, this means a lot of movies, tv and anime fly completely under my radar and Beastars would have been one of those shows if a good friend of mine hadn’t recommended it. She knows my taste in anime so I trust her judgment and I went into this series blind, no trailer, no synopsis, no reviews, no nothing. And as soon as I streamed the first episode, I thought Chance the Rapper was going to jump out screaming “You’ve been Punk’d!” because my friend knows there are two things I’m not a fan of in my anime:

  • The first is anthropomorphism. Furries and animals acting like humans no longer holds any interest for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not in my current entertainment wheelhouse.
  • The second is slice of life school kids romance. If that’s your thing, good on you, I’m simply not the target demographic for that sort of thing.

And as I am no spring chicken, the thought of investing my limited time on this planet suffering through a number of episodes of a boy too shy to tell a cute girl he has feelings for her despite the numerous occasions fate forces the pair together…well, ain’t nobody got time for that.

And I was ready to punch out of the series, when this happened:

What the holy hell was I watching?

Don’t get me wrong, I may be old, but I’m not a prude. I have no problem with women taking charge and owning their sexuality and sexual experiences. There’s no slut-shaming here. In fact, take your clothes off, tiny bunny (sung to the tune of “Tiny Dancer”). It’s all good. You do you. (Do the kids still say that?). The scene simply caught me off guard and it was enough to make me curious about the direction the show was heading in.

I know it’s popular these days to recap events episode by episode, provide thoughts and theories and even pose questions to elicit reader response but that’s a bit too spoilery for me so I won’t be doing any of that. I will, however, point out the moment that made up my mind about this series. It’s the scene where after navigating through a string of hardships, Legoshi and Haru are finally about to connect romantically when this happens:

The bits of text you may not be able to read are:

“A rebuke from my rabbit instincts: loving each other is a terrible mistake. A predator has its own instincts, so does a prey.”

And the line that cinched it all for me:

“Their bodies know what their relationship should be.”

It’s a damned heady line that made me ponder not only their relationship but the biological roles we’re meant to play during the mating process, long after the episode ended. And if a show can make my rusty brainbox think and not simply sit idly and absorb content, well then, it’s got a viewer for life.

Looking at this, I realize that I’ve only showcased intimate scenes but Beastars is far more than a randy animal school romance. Characters struggle with the confines of societal roles, fight to rein in their desires, try to outwit the destinies written on their foreheads, and so much more.

I quite liked the character designs and the animation remained smooth and consistent from episode to episode with no dip in quality. The series juggles several storylines effortlessly and I didn’t experience that midpoint slump which often occurs when binging a show whose plot has been stretched thin in order to fill a preset number of episodes.

So, would I recommend Beastars? Definitely. Will I come back for the second season? Most assuredly. And before you complain about the lack of story breakdowns and spoilers, realize that I’m doing you a favor and I’ve probably said too much already. Go watch it for yourself.

Ciao til next now.